Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day Three, “Walking Towards Freedom”Jan 20th, 2013 | By Tom Brown | Category: Blog Posts
On Day 3 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we continue our reflections on the daily themes and Scripture readings offered by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
As we walk towards freedom in the Lord, we ask Him, “What do you require of us today?” (Cf. Micah 6:6-8.) For we know that only in a state of submission to His will can we experience the freedom which He has promised.
The Hebrew midwives understood this intuitively. (Exodus 1:15-22.) From the wellspring of fearing the Lord, they were inspired to do God’s will by protecting the innocent infant boys whom were of His people. These infants were in need of the Lord’s protection and intervention. The Lord made this intervention by way of humble midwives. He saw fit to use them, whom had submitted their own wills to His.
What does the Lord require of us in pursuit of Christian unity? It is easy to ask, and it is easier still to presume we are doing okay. But we know deep inside, when we take a quiet moment to reflect, that we are not doing okay. We are not pursuing truth with our brothers and sisters in love. We do not care much about Christian unity, or we despair that unity is not possible. We let something remain a hindrance to the Lord’s will: a harsh and impatient tongue, an appetite to score points on our interlocutors, or a lack of charity and respect. Perhaps we simply find ourselves too busy to spend the hours it takes to seek the truth with another.
But there is a way to do for Christian unity what the Lord requires of us. And the Hebrew midwives have shown us the way. We begin to submit our own will — sinful, stubborn, prideful as it is — to God’s perfect will by fearing Him. We remember that for each of our actions and for each word we use (especially in public fora!) we shall be judged. (2 Corinthians 5:10.) This fear of the Lord motivates us to desire the right end, namely, that the Lord’s will be done on earth.
But fear of the Lord, in isolation, is still certainly not enough. To submit our wills to God’s, we remain entirely dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord. With His Spirit, we can attain that freedom allowed by a will aligned with God’s. (2 Corinthians 3:17.)
The woman at the well, that sinful Samaritan who was so much more like ourselves than we would care to realize, asked our Lord for the Spirit. Impulsively like St. Peter, she said, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (Cf. John 4:4-26.) In these words we can sense the depth of her longing for freedom, freedom from the shackles of a rampant, untempered will. With the “Spirit and truth” we can walk towards freedom, and not just for ourselves but for our separated brethren as well.
Lord, help us to fear Your judgments, and to conform our wills unto Your own. Pour forth Your Spirit that we may be sustained on the journey towards freedom. May it be done unto us according to Your will! (Cf. Luke 1:38.) Amen.
BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE ‘EIGHT DAYS’
Day 3 Walking towards freedom Readings Exodus 1: 15-22 The Hebrew midwives obey God’s law over the command of Pharaoh Psalm 17: 1-6 The confident prayer of one open to God’s gaze 2 Cor. 3: 17-18 The glorious freedom of God’s children in Christ John 4: 4-26 Conversation with Jesus leads the Samaritan woman nto freer living
Walking humbly with the Lord is always a walk into receiving the freedom he opens up before all people. With this in mind we celebrate. We celebrate the mystery of the struggle for freedom, which takes place even in the places where oppression, prejudice and poverty seem to be impossible burdens. The resolute refusal to accept inhuman commands and conditions – like those given by Pharaoh to the midwives of the enslaved Hebrew people – can seem like small actions; but these are often the kinds of actions towards freedom going on in local communities everywhere. Such determined journeying towards fuller living presents a gift of Gospel hope to all people, caught up, in our different ways, within the patterns of inequality across the globe.
The step by step journey into freedom from unjust discrimination and practices of prejudice is brought home to us by the story of Jesus’ meeting at the well with the woman of Samaria. Here is a woman who seeks, first of all, to question the prejudices which confront her, as well as to seek ways of alleviating the practical burdens of her life. These concerns are the starting place for her conversation with Jesus. Jesus himself engages in conversation with her on the bases both of his need for her practical help (he is thirsty) and in a mutual exploration of the social prejudices which make this help seem problematic. Bit by bit the way of a freer life is opened up before the woman, as the reality of the complexities of her life are seen more clearly in the light of Jesus’ words. In the end these personal insights return the conversation to a place where what divides these two groups of people – where they should worship – is transcended. “Worship in spirit and in truth” is what is required; and here we learn to be free from all that holds us back from life together, life in its fullness.
To be called into greater freedom in Christ, is a calling to deeper communion. Those things which separate us – both as Christians searching for unity, and as people kept apart by unjust traditions and inequalities – keep us captives, and hidden from one another. Our freedom in Christ is, rather, characterised by that new life in the Spirit, which enables us, together, to stand before the glories of God “with unveiled faces”. It is in this glorious light that we learn to see each other more truly, as we grow in Christ’s likeness towards the fullness of Christian unity.
Liberating God, we thank you for the resilience and hopeful faith of those who struggle for dignity and fullness of life. We know that you raise up those who are cast down, and free those who are bound. Your Son Jesus walks with us to show us the path to authentic freedom. May we appreciate what has been given to us, and be strengthened to overcome all within us that enslaves. Send us your Spirit so that the truth shall set us free, so that with voices united we can proclaim your love to the world. God of life, lead us to justice and peace. Amen.
- Are there times, even in our own Christian communities, when the prejudices and judgments of the world, – with regard to caste, age, gender, race, educational background – stop us seeing each other clearly in the light of God’s glory?
- What small, practical steps can we take, as Christians together, towards the freedom of the Children of God (Romans 8.21) for our churches, and for wider society?